Toronto Zoo to launch $250 million campaign

The grizzly bear compound is one of the many areas which will be renovated if the campaign is launched.If the Toronto Zoo gets its way, sometime over the next decade visitors to the famous local attraction will be able to make regular visits to a pair of pandas.

To get there, the zoo is initiating a $250-million fund raising campaign that will also look to make massive improvements to infrastructure and turn the park into a fully green operation.

Plans include:

  • $21.5 million for an education learning centre (focusing on biodiversity, sustainability and the environment).
  • $107.8 million on conservation, research and animal care projects including a cooperative panda-breeding project with China.
  • $24 million on infrastructure and “visitor experience.”
  • $46.6 million on “securing the future,” by creating endowment funds.

Robin Hale, acting chief executive officer of the Toronto Zoo says the fundraising campaign will be divided into a few separate phases.

“We will be starting on the first phase, which is approximately a $50 million campaign — the overall $250 million campaign will be divided into phases. The first phase will go on for about five years,” Hale says.

The Toronto Zoo is expecting to receive most of the money from governments, individuals and corporate donors.

With a green initiative in all the projects included in this plan, Hale says this fundraising campaign is expected to run from five to 10 years.

Though the plan is in its early stages, a broad outline of the projects has already been mapped out. All the projects included in this plan are based on conservation and environmental issues. As one of the original green leaders, Hale says the zoo was already working on ways to make itself more self-sustainable. And with the $250 million hopefully raised from the campaign, the zoo “will incorporate techniques to ensure that they’re using green energy and to reduce footprint”.

The project to build an education centre for sustainable life and learning is the highest priority in this plan, says Hale.

“Through partnership with zoo visitors, the general public, the government and corporations, we will undertake a series of projects and educational programs to encourage sustainable methodologies being employed by people throughout the country,” he says.

Another project in the plan is the redevelopment of parts of the zoo. All of the goals in this plan are long-term, but the zoo has already started working on some of the goals with the resources that they have, officials say.

The train tracks of the old monorail-type attraction that was decommissioned in the 1990’s will not be removed but Hale says the visible sections have already been taken away.

Hale also pointed out that this is the largest fundraising campaign that the Toronto Zoo has ever launched. The last campaign at the zoo, begun about 10 years ago, raised approximately $5 million he says.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker says he expects to raise the money needed.

“We think there’s enough people concerned about saving planet earth that they will make these generous gifts,” De Baeremaeker says. “There is no Plan B, there’s only Plan A because we’re going to achieve it.

“We’re super confident that the public is very supportive of what we’re doing, especially with our efforts to become not just a zoo, but a conservation organization.”